Bageshree S.

Madan Meena has got women of his community to do the traditional murals on brown paper

Bangalore: Madan Meena was a four-year-old when his father found a job in Kota town in Rajasthan and the family moved out of the ancestral village of Narayanpur Tatwara. This meant a shift from the kuccha mud house to a pucca one, and with it, a change in the entire lifestyle. His grandmother who used to paint "mandanas" traditional murals done on mud walls of the house by women of the Meena tribal community was left without a canvas.

This loss of creative space for his community's women was something that kept nagging Madan during his growing-up years. And documenting this art became a mission once he completed his post-graduation in fine arts. He travelled extensively in rural Rajasthan on his motorbike taking pictures of "mandana" art wherever it survived and documenting the folklore and music that went with it. "The structure of houses was changing even in rural Rajasthan, most often with no connection to the local culture," he says.

That is when he realised that besides documenting the art, there was an urgent need to find a new canvas for it too. He took up the ambitious project of getting women in Tonk and Sawai Madhopur districts to do "mandanas" on brown paper. But khajur sticks remained their brush. The choice of colours and motifs too remained the same: birds, animals, plants and decorative patterns done in the basic colours of white and earth red.

"Their favourite motif is moradi (peacock) painted in magnificent styles and shapes, mostly on front exterior walls," says Madan. Occasionally, one finds a tractor, a bus, or motorcycle joining the rich repertoire of traditional images. He also documented other forms associated with "mandana" art such as music and folktales.

This painstaking process of documentation, done over a period of six to seven years, became the material for a travelling exhibition which is visiting Bangalore for 10 days from April 1. The show will have "mandanas" done by the women, along with the documented study of the art and the tribe itself.